Tag Archives: Sir Walter Scott

Entrance Tickets – The Mary Queen of Scots’ Visitor Centre

Jedburgh

I made my way to the house where Mary Queen of Scots lived for a month in 1566. She may or may not have stopped there of course, both England and Scotland are littered with houses that claim a royal visit but as I approached I got a feeling that this claim might just be genuine.

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Scottish Borders, Jedburgh and Mary Queen of Scots

Jedburgh Abbey

It took about half an hour to drive to Jedburgh and I liked it immediately, free parking and complimentary wifi – what a wonderful example to every other town in the UK who choose instead to fleece the casual visitor at every opportunity.

The weather was improving rapidly now and I went first to the Tourist Information Centre and arranged a speed sightseeing visit of the Abbey, Mary Queen of Scots House and the Castle Museum.

First the Abbey, an eleventh century Augustinian Church with much later additions in response to natural disasters and the consequences of border warfare, a magnificent soaring structure with both a bloody and peaceful history in almost equal measures.  Augustinians were priests who lived a secluded and contemplative life, but who went out into the countryside from their cloister to minister to the people and Jedburgh eventually possessed about twenty parish churches.

Jedburgh Abbey

Monastic life was mostly routine, boring probably, but the abbey’s location close to the border with England inevitably brought it into the conflict between the two countries that blighted the later Middle Ages. During the Wars of Independence in the fourteenth century, the canons had to evacuate the premises several times and watch the place being sacked and plundered. Further attacks in the 1400s were followed by major raids in the sixteenth century. These and the Protestant Reformation of 1560 led to Jedburgh’s demise as a monastic institution.

I liked the Abbey, so much so that my strict timetable was beginning to slip like fine sand through my fingers so I hurried through the final stages, skipped the visitor shop and made my way to the house where Mary Queen of Scots lived for a month in 1566.  She may or may not have stopped there of course, both England and Scotland are littered with houses that claim a royal visit but as I approached I got a feeling that this claim might just be genuine.

Mary Queen of Scots House Jedburgh

The day was getting better and better – free admission!  A house/museum on three levels that told the story of one of history’s tragic victims of circumstance, Mary Stuart, and in my opinion one that was well worth an admission charge so when I had finished I left a generous £5 donation.

The attendant at the museum told me that it was just a ten minute walk to the castle museum but what she didn’t tell me was that it was up a massive energy sapping hill so after just a few yards I gave up, went back to the car park to get the car and drove to the top instead.

Jedburgh Mary Queen of Scots

This was another free museum. Brilliant.  It wasn’t a real castle however because sometime during the wars of independence the Scots pulled it down and destroyed it so that invading English armies couldn’t use it anymore which was a solution that seemed a bit extreme to me.

Today the castle is a prison museum experience with a history of imprisonment and hopeless incarceration and an explanation of life in a Victorian correction establishment.  It was good, I liked it, but not as much as Mary Queen of Scots House so I only left a £2 donation this time.  Actually I was running out of coins.

Reluctantly I left Jedburgh, I would have liked to have played golf today but I wasn’t disappointed that I had been sightseeing instead.  I drove back to Galashiels but on the way stopped off at Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

To be honest I had imagined this to be a simple place, a crofters cottage and a small garden but it turned out to be a magnificent stately home with acres of grounds that would have taken far more time to look around than I had available today.  So I have been to Abbotsford House but I haven’t visited Abbotsford House and that will have to wait until the golfing holiday next year.

Abbotsford House Scotland

Scottish Borders, Galashiels, Walter Scott and William Wallace

Neidpath Castle Peebles Scotland

Every year thirty or so members of my golf club go for a week away golfing in Scotland and after three years on the reserve list I finally got an invite.

Unfortunately the week prior to departure I entertained my three grandchildren and one of them left me a parting gift of a very heavy cold so when I set off one Sunday morning I was sniffing and sneezing and relying on cold relief capsules to help me through the journey north.

Actually I think it was probably ‘man flu’ and  I digress here for a moment to explain that this is a condition that this is a strain of flu so powerful and so deadly that it can only be matched by the Bubonic Plague.  It is an incurable virus, which has adapted to only effect the “XY” gene found in men. The virus attacks the immune system ten thousand times more seriously than an average flu and causes excruciating pain and discomfort for the victim.

For all of the week I felt awful but I played golf for four days but on Friday I woke to grey skies and persistent rain so on account of the fact that I was due to go on holiday to Wales a couple of days later and I didn’t want to get worse and spoil that I decided against putting on the leaking waterproofs and dragging myself around the fifth course of the week and thought that I might do a little bit of sightseeing instead.

I was staying in the town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders  which is so far south in Scotland that it is even nearer the equator than the town of Berwick-on-Tweed, the furthest town north in England but what a wonderfully scenic and historic part of the country.

This is Walter Scott country where the great man of Scottish literature chose to live and receive his literary inspiration and the land of William Wallace and the marcher lands that separated England from Scotland and was the scene of much medieval warfare and fighting.

Galashiels Raid Stane Englishman's Syke

And so it was in Galashiels where I came across memorial called “The Raid Stane” the site of an incident in 1337 when a raiding party of English soldiers were picking wild plums close to the town and and were caught by angry Scots who came across them by chance and slaughtered them all.  It seems that they were picking and eating sour fruit and they were so unwell that they were unable to fight back.

Today the town’s coat of arms shows two foxes reaching up to eat plums from a tree, and the motto is Sour Plums pronounced in Scots as soor plooms.  Every year in June there is an event in the town called the Galashiels Braw Lads Gathering which celebrates the event and by all accounts if you are English you really don’t want to be in town that particular night.

Angry Scots

I spent a half an hour or so in the granite town of Galashiels and with the rain getting heavier returned to the car and with the stubborn grey skies refusing to clear away planned a route south towards the town of Jedburgh and followed a route through sweeping hills, purple with heather and decorated with the ragged stumps of the ruins of castles and derelict lookout towers, testimony to its turbulent history.

I passed through the town of Melrose with its ruined Abbey which is said to be the secret  burial site of the heart of Robert the Bruce but I didn’t stop there because I calculated that I only had time for one ruined abbey and that was going to be Jedburgh.

I did however make detour into a valley of the River Tweed and stopped for a while at Scott’s view which is a place where allegedly he liked to stop by and reflect on life.  I am not disputing this but it this rather remote place is about ten miles or so from where he lived so in days before automobiles this would not be something that the average person, or even the great Sir Walter Scott, would be able to do on impulse.  It was a nice view all the same and apparently his funeral cortege stopped off here for a short while on his way to his burial spot in the grounds of nearby Dryburgh Abbey.

One of my favourite Scott stories is how he saved the Scottish bank note.  In 1826 there was a proposal to abandon Scottish notes and adopt the English notes instead.  Under the pseudonym Malachi Malagrowther Scott campaigned hard against the proposal and was eventually successful.  In recognition of this a picture of Scott even today appears on every Bank of Scotland note.

Walter Scott bank note

Instead of visiting the Abbey I sought out a massive stone statue of William Wallace standing solitary and magnificent in half armour and kilt, a massive claymore hanging menacingly from his belt and leaning on a giant sword fully fifteen feet tall.

Thanks to the hopelessly historically inaccurate Mel Gibson film ‘Braveheart’, quite possibly the most aggressively Anglophobe and historically inaccurate film ever made, William Wallace remains a burning symbol of Scottish nationalism but the truth is that his fame is based on one lucky victory against the English and a conveniently overlooked string of subsequent defeats.

I thought he looked rather sad and forlorn stuck out here abandoned on a ridge overlooking the river wondering what might have been and with nothing to detain me here for more than a few minutes I swiftly moved on towards my intended destination.

William Wallace

Postcards From Scotland

William WallaceScott Monument EdinburghAbbotsford House Galashiels ScotlandMary Queen of Scots House JedburghEdinburgh Military Tattoo

 

Scottish Borders, Postcards

Jedburgh Mary Queen of Scots HouseJedburgh. Mary Queen of Scots House

005Melrose Abbey

Abbotsford House ScotlandAbbotsford House

Scottish Borders, Jedburgh and Mary Queen of Scots

Jedburgh Abbey

It took about half an hour to drive to Jedburgh and I liked it immediately, free parking and complimentary wifi – what a wonderful example to every other town in the UK who choose instead to fleece the casual visitor at every opportunity.

The weather was improving rapidly now and I went first to the Tourist Information Centre and arranged a speed sightseeing visit of the Abbey, Mary Queen of Scots House and the Castle Museum.

Jedburgh Abbey…

First the Abbey, an eleventh century Augustinian Church with much later additions in response to natural disasters and the consequences of border warfare, a magnificent soaring structure with both a bloody and peaceful history in almost equal measures.  Augustinians were priests who lived a secluded and contemplative life, but who went out into the countryside from their cloister to minister to the people and Jedburgh eventually possessed about twenty parish churches.

Monastic life was mostly routine, boring probably, but the abbey’s location close to the border with England inevitably brought it into the conflict between the two countries that bedevilled the later Middle Ages. During the Wars of Independence in the fourteenth century, the canons had to evacuate the premises several times and watch the place being sacked and plundered. Further attacks in the 1400s were followed by major raids in the sixteenth century. These and the Protestant Reformation of 1560 led to Jedburgh’s demise as a monastic institution.

Although a great deal of the Abbey is now only stone foundations and ruins it is still possible to get a genuine feeling of just how grand and important this place must once been.  Soaring Gothic arches built over earlier Romanesque windows, a bell tower visible for miles around and surrounded by gardens and the river, the Jed Stream, which once powered a water mill, surging past today, swollen by days of heavy rainfall.

Mary Queen of Scots House Jedburgh

Mary Queen of Scots

I liked the Abbey, so much so that my strict timetable was beginning to slip like fine sand through my fingers so I hurried through the final stages, skipped the visitor shop and made my way to the house where Mary Queen of Scots lived for a month in 1566.  She may or may not have stopped there of course, both England and Scotland are littered with houses that claim a royal visit but as I approached I got a feeling that this claim might just be genuine.

The day was getting better and better – free admission!  A house/museum on three levels that told the story of one of history’s tragic victims of circumstance, Mary Stuart, and in my opinion one that was well worth an admission charge so when I had finished I left a generous £5 donation.

The attendant at the museum told me that it was just a ten minute walk to the castle museum but what she didn’t tell me was that it was up a massive energy sapping hill so after just a few yards I gave up, went back to the car park to get the car and drove to the top instead.

This was another free museum. Brilliant.  It wasn’t a real castle however because sometime during the wars of independence the Scots pulled it down and destroyed it so that invading English armies couldn’t use it anymore which was a solution that seemed a bit extreme to me.

Today the castle is a prison museum experience with a history of imprisonment and hopeless incarceration and an explanation of life in a Victorian correction establishment.  It was good, I liked it, but not as much as Mary Queen of Scots House so I only left a £2 donation this time.  Actually I was running out of coins.

Reluctantly I left Jedburgh, I would have liked to have played golf today but I wasn’t disappointed that I had been sightseeing instead.  I drove back to Galashiels but on the way stopped off at Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

To be honest I had imagined this to be a simple place, a crofters cottage and a small garden but it turned out to be a magnificent stately home with acres of grounds that would have taken far more time to look around than I had available today.  So I have been to Abbotsford House but I haven’t visited Abbotsford House and that will have to wait until the golfing holiday next year.

Abbotsford House Galashiels Scotland

Scottish Borders, Walter Scott and William Wallace

Neidpath Castle Peebles Scotland

Every year thirty or so members of my golf club go for a week away golfing in Scotland and after three years on the reserve list I finally got an invite in 2015.  Unfortunately the week prior to departure I entertained my three grandchildren and one of them left me a parting gift of a very heavy cold so when I set off one Sunday morning I was sniffing and sneezing and relying on cold relief capsules to help me through the journey north.

Actually I think it was probably ‘man flu’ and  I digress here for a moment to explain that this is a condition that this is a strain of flu so powerful and so deadly that it can only be matched by the Bubonic Plague.  It is an incurable virus, which has adapted to only effect the “XY” gene found in men. The virus attacks the immune system ten thousand times more seriously than an average flu and causes excruciating pain and discomfort for the victim.

Man flu has no cure and although this deadly virus is mostly laughed at by women this is almost certainly because, luckily for them, they cannot contract it themselves and consequently have absolutely no idea just how awful it is.  When a man gets this terrible affliction all he could hope is that using all of his inner strength that he will eventually pull through and recover.  Incidentally, and I want to clear this up right here and now, there is no substance in the alternative (female) definitions of the affliction as ‘Sympathy Fishing’ or ‘Chronic Exaggeration Syndrome’.

For all of the week I felt awful but I played golf for four days but on Friday I woke to grey skies and persistent rain so on account of the fact that I was due to go on holiday to Wales a couple of days later and I didn’t want to get worse and spoil that I decided against putting on the leaking waterproofs and dragging myself around the fifth course of the week and thought that I might do a little bit of sightseeing instead.

I was staying in the town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders  which is so far south in Scotland that it is even nearer the equator than the town of Berwick-on-Tweed, the furthest town north in England but what a wonderfully scenic and historic part of the country.

Scottish Borders

This is Walter Scott country where the great man of Scottish literature chose to live and receive his literary inspiration and the land of William Wallace and the marcher lands that separated England from Scotland and was the scene of much medieval warfare and fighting.

I spent a half an hour or so in the unremarkable town of Galashiels and with the rain getting heavier returned to the car and with the stubborn  grey skies refusing to clear away planned a route south towards the town of Jedburgh and followed a route through sweeping hills, purple with heather and decorated with the ragged stumps of the ruins of castles and derelict lookout towers, terrible testimony to its turbulent history.

I passed through the town of Melrose with its ruined Abbey which is said to be the secret  burial site of the heart of Robert the Bruce but I didn’t stop there because I calculated that I only had time for one ruined abbey and that was going to be Jedburgh.

I made a detour into a valley of the River Tweed and stopped for a while at Scott’s view which is a place where allegedly he liked to stop by and reflect on life.  I am not disputing this but it this rather remote place is about ten miles or so from where he lived so in days before automobiles this would not be something that the average person, or even the great Sir Walter Scott, would be able to do on impulse.  It was a nice view all the same and apparently his funeral cortege stopped off here for a short while on his way to his burial spot in the grounds of nearby Dryburgh Abbey but I didn’t stop there either.

One of my favourite Scott stories is how he saved the Scottish bank note.  In 1826 there was a proposal to abandon Scottish notes and adopt the English notes instead.  Under the pseudonym Malachi Malagrowther Scott campaigned hard against the proposal and was eventually successful.  In recognition of this a picture of Scott even today appears on every Bank of Scotland note.

Walter Scott bank note

Walter Scott Postage Stamp

Instead of visiting the Abbey I sought out a massive stone statue of William Wallace standing magnificent in half armour and kilt, a claymore hanging menacingly from his belt and leaning on a giant sword fully fifteen feet tall.

Thanks to the hopelessly historically inaccurate Mel Gibson film ‘Braveheart’, quite possibly the most Anglophobe and historically inaccurate film ever made, William Wallace remains a burning symbol of Scottish nationalism but the truth is that his fame is based on one lucky victory against the English and a conveniently overlooked string of subsequent defeats. I thought he looked rather sad and forlorn stuck out here abandoned on a ridge overlooking the river  and with nothing to detain me here for more than a few minutes I swiftly moved on towards my intended destination.

Have you ever visited somewhere and been disappointed or underwhelmed?

William Wallace

To my knowledge William wallace has never appeared on a Scottish bank note or a UK postage stamp and neither has Mel Gibson.

Scotland – Edinburgh, First Impressions

Edinburgh Scotland

We caught the train to Edinburgh from Newcastle Central and I just knew that there was going to be a problem when a group of misbehaving middle aged women joined us in our carriage with tee shirts announcing that they were celebrating ‘Marie’s 50th Birthday’.

There were signs in the carriage saying keep the noise down but I don’t think any of them could read so they cracked the cans and topped the bottles and made an almighty racket all the way to Edinburgh. I actually prayed to God that they weren’t staying in our hotel.

We found a seat at the other end of the carriage and ignored them as best we could and enjoyed the ride. Trains used to chatter but now they hum and the journey took us along the Northumbrian coast past Alnwick and Lindisfarne, Holy Island and Berwick and then followed the Firth of Forth towards our destination.  It was like a vivid reminder of our two day mini bus excursion in Turkey  with the Dagenham Womens’ Darts Team.

There is surely no finer city to arrive by train than Edinburgh! If there is, then please let me know?

In most cities the railway terminus is out of town, somewhere in the scruffy district with the graffiti and the dirt, somewhere well past its best but not so in Edinburgh because Waverley Station (the only station in the world named after a novel) is right in the beating heart of the city and once ascended from the subterranean platforms a visitor is deposited immediately into Edinburgh’s principal thoroughfare – Princess Street. The A1, the road that links Edinburgh to London, four hundred miles away and a road on which Scottish Nationalists would construct a border crossing at Berwick upon Tweed if they had their way.

And so it was that we emerged from the underground chambers of the railway station and arrived blinking and unsure into the centre of the capital city of Scotland, the seventh largest city in the UK, but only the second in Scotland after Glasgow. The largest UK city is of course London with a population over seven million and the smallest is St David’s in Wales with a tiny population of only two thousand.

Immediately we were met by the unpleasant reception of dozens of beggars hanging around the station concourse and we picked our careful way though the dirty sleeping bags and on to the wailing siren of bagpipes on every street corner. There was no mistaking that we were in Scotland!

Adjacent to the station there are a number of fine old hotels, The Caledonian, The Scotsman, The Royal British and the Old Waverley where we were staying. It was only a five minute walk from the station and we presented ourselves at reception and were booked in and handed our key and we made our way to the fifth floor. Edinburgh hotels are expensive and I was not expecting anything special but when we opened the door we were delighted to have a suite at the front of the hotel directly opposite the Scott monument and with a fine view of the castle.

From the tall windows there was a grandstand view of the city. There were soaring towers of granite with green copper domes standing straight backed and proud like soldiers of a Highland regiment, high pitched roofs to deal with winter snow, salt and pepper coloured buildings with symmetrical windows that would please a mathematician, terracotta chimney pots in orderly rows and flagpoles with waving Saltires but also quite surprisingly an equal number of Union flags. The 2015 vote on independence split the country down the middle and the evidence was here to see.

The buildings here rise imperiously above a narrow gorge where railway lines squeeze themselves into the city in between gardens of rain soaked velvet green and above it all stands the castle, a magnificent structure rising from the ground as though announcing the beginning of a volcanic eruption.

And opposite, almost within touching distance was the soaring Gothic memorial to the novelist and poet Walter Scott. Some people don’t like the memorial but I think it looks just fine.

On account of the view I could have stayed in the room all afternoon but that wouldn’t have got a lot of sightseeing done so as soon as we had unpacked and could tear ourselves away we went back to Princess Street with a plan to see the city.

Scott Monument Edinburgh

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